No loan repayments from Brighton’s i360 likely in 2020

Owners of troubled tourist attraction the i360 are unlikely to make any loan payments this year.

The i360 pictured in March. Pic Steve Robards SR2003171 SUS-200318-200607001
The i360 pictured in March. Pic Steve Robards SR2003171 SUS-200318-200607001

Since it opened in 2016, its management company has deferred £3.7 million in loan repayments to Brighton and Hove City Council.

And next Wednesday, a virtual meeting of the authority’s Policy and Resources Recovery Committee will be asked to defer both the June and December loan payments due this year.

A further £150,000 of the promised £612,000 promised as the December 2019 payment is also likely to be deferred.

The seafront attraction, which has been closed since lockdown, is replaying the £36million Public Works Loan Board’s loan, which was underwritten by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Deferring payments will impact on the council’s cash flow, according to the report going before the committee.

Council investments are kept in short-term low-interest account at the moment to keep finances “liquid”, to help cover the extra costs related to Covid-19.

The report going before councillors said the i360 would normally expect to make “significant income” during the weeks of pleasant spring weather.

As the government moves towards easing lockdown, the visitor economy may not be a priority.

Social distancing, in whatever form it takes in the future, will limit numbers in the i360’s pod, shop and restaurant.

The report said: “However, in discussions with the i360 board, they have expressed optimism that they do have space for good social distancing.

“If they are allowed to open in July and August, they would benefit from ‘staycation’ tourism and start to see income coming back quickly in what are the two most lucrative months of the year (about 30 per cent of annual turnover is normally achieved in July and August).”

Another proposal put forward is a timetable of regular meetings between i360 management and the authority’s i360 Member Working Group.

The working group formed in December and met with the i360 board for the first time on 3 June.

During that meeting, councillors urged the i360 board to ensure it seeks out all government financial support, including loans.

Visitor numbers halved in February after the first reported cluster of Covid-19 cases occurred in the city.

Two major storms in the same month also took their toll on visitor numbers.

In December, a report to the Policy and Resources Committee said the i360 had contributed £89.6 million to the city economy.

The council receives a percentage of ticket sales.

So far this money has gone to the fund for restoring Madeira Terraces and festoon lighting along the seafront.

The Policy and Resources Recovery Committee “virtual” meeting is due to be webcast from 4pm on Wednesday, 24 June from the city council website.